Osbourne Cox(John Malkovich), a Balkan expert, is fired at the CIA, so he begins a memoir. His wife Katie(Tilda Swinton) wants a divorce and expects her lover, Harry(George Clooney), a philandering State Department marshal, to leave his wife. A diskette falls out of a gym bag at a Georgetown fitness center. Two employees there try to turn it into cash: Linda(Frances McDormand), who wants money for elective surgery, and Chad(Brad Pitt), an amiable goof. Information on the disc leads them to Osbourne who rejects their sales pitch; then they visit the Russian embassy. To sweeten the pot, they decide they need more of Osbourne's secrets. Meanwhile, Linda's boss likes her, and Harry's wife leaves for a book tour. All roads lead to Osbourne's house.